Well, here we are, exactly two weeks before Christmas. It seems like I just undecorated and put everything a couple of months ago. Time passes way too fast…but enough about that. This time of year is a beautiful time, full of major celebrations, of which Christmas and Hanukkah are only two. My particular celebration is Christmas, but those of you who don’t celebrate Christmas may have a similar situation involving other holiday traditions. Everyone is very busy decorating, shopping for gifts, sending cards or letters, cooking and baking, and otherwise preparing for their own special traditions and celebrations. All of these activities are going on at the same time we continue to live our regular routine, work, writing, researching, family, and so forth. We try so hard to make it all perfect… Which leads us directly to the all-to-common Christmas meltdown. This year, I am determined NOT to experience one.
I have put up my tree and some decorations. Being a woman of a certain age (don’t you love that phrase?), I have lots of decorations that have been accumulated over years and years. Many memories are involved. Have I dragged them all out and made careful choices? No, I have not. I have put up what came to hand first, and stopped when I felt that it was time. The tree is in the library corner, just like it was last year, and looks very similar. (The picture shown is last year’s tree. I haven’t gotten around to taking pictures yet.)
Our Christmas card list and cards are waiting on the dining room table. We will get them out. My husband and I have already received a number of lovely cards, and a few newsletters, and we are so glad to hear from dear ones at this time of year. I have at least sent the e-cards to friends and family on-line. Gifts? Some shopping is done, some still in process. I’ve even had a couple sent. Giving back to my community is also on the agenda. A new feeling this year-I don’t feel guilty for not having my mailings done at the time I had so hopefully planned.
This year, I am going to take full advantage of the 12 days of Christmas. (Not that this is new… My nearest and dearest usually get cards and packages on a flexible calendar.) The difference this year is that I refuse to get stressed and upset about it. It is more important to relax, enjoy the season and the opportunity to share with our loved ones and others. Getting upset about things only ruins the time you have, it doesn’t make anything happen differently or go more smoothly. Surely it’s more important to be able to enjoy the time you have with the people you love than it is to have ticked every item off your list on schedule even if it burnt you to the socket. We are too hard on ourselves. It’s time to put the focus where it belongs: the meaning of the holiday we celebrate, and the joy of being with those we love.
One of the pleasures of reading history, whether fiction or non-fiction, is learning about the day-to-day living of people in the past. I am particularly interested in the Georgian era in England, especially the Regency period. Recently, I was reading a novel, in which a menu for a particular meal was detailed and “a pupton of cherries” caught my attention. It sounded like some kind of sweet dish, and I wondered what was in it, so I tried to look it up. Not as easy as I expected!
First of all, I could not find a definition of “pupton.” Thanks to the miracle of Google books, I found several old cookbooks on-line. In THE ART OF COOKERY by John Mollard (4th edition published in 1836), I found arecipe for a “Pulpton of Apples” (p. 251) in which quartered apples were stewed until tender, sieved, and mixed with spices, eggs, and breadcrumbs soaked in cream. This concoction was baked in a buttered mould and served turned out on a dish with sifted sugar over it. A recipe for a pulpton of apples also appears in the 1802 edition of Mr. Mollard’s cookbook.
Hannah Glasse, whose popular cookbook THE ART OF COOKERY Made Plain and Easy was first published in 1747, and was released in numerous editions until the last in 1843, includes a recipe for a “pupton” of apples as well. In her version, the fruit was cooked with sugar and only a small amount of water, until the fruit was the consistency of marmalade. She also combined the cooked fruit pulp with eggs, spices, cream and breadcrumbs, with some butter, baked it and served it on a plate.
Title Page from Hannah Glasse’s Cookbook
Both of these recipes sounded good to me, and I could see how this recipe could be adapted to almost any kind of fruit, including cherries. However, this was not the end of the pupton! Looking over the tables of contents, I found recipes for savory puptons as well. These sound remarkably like pate’s and terrines served today, as at least a portion of the fish, meat or poultry component is cut finely with equal portions of suet, then pounded into a paste, called forcemeat. If used alone, the paste would be seasoned, then it could be rolled into balls and poached in a sauce or fried; it could be put into a bag of some kind (one recipe I found took a chicken, removed all the meat, made the paste, seasoned it, and put it back in the chicken skin) and stewed, or baked. A fascinating recipe I found in THE LONDON ART OF COOKERY And Housekeepers Complete Assistant by John Farley (4th edition, published in 1787) included a “French Pupton of Pigeons” on page 127. This recipe took a quantity of forcemeat, made a very thin layer (similar to a pie crust), and then proceeded to layer thin bacon, squabs, asparagus, mushrooms and several other ingredients (a few of which may seem odd in combination today, including cocks’ combs). This was then topped with another thin layer of forcemeat, like a pie, and baked. When done, it was to be served in a dish with gravy poured around it.
Either sweet or savory, the pupton sounds like a wonderful and tasty dish! I love this kind of detail, as it makes the people of the past come alive. Food is something we all have in common.